This article takes issue with recent accounts of the evolution of Gandhian ideas that have stressed his importance as a global theorist of principled nonviolence. It suggests that throughout his life Gandhi's writings display a preoccupation with ideas of martial courage and fearlessness; his stance might best be defined as one of nonviolent “martiality” rather than nonviolence per se. His overriding goal was not to proselytize for global “ahimsa” (nonviolence) but to shape the Indian people into a nonviolent army that could wrest freedom from the colonizers. It explains this concern for both nonviolence and martial attitudes by arguing that Gandhi's thought has to be reassessed and placed within several important contexts: the widespread global popularity of militarism before 1914; an influential intellectual critique of Western “materialist” values; Asian nationalist efforts to develop “indigenous” forms of mobilizational politics in their struggles against imperialism; and Indian thinking about caste (varna), which was central to Gandhi's thought and has generally been neglected in the literature. These contexts help us to understand Gandhi's complex and sometimes contradictory thinking on the issue of violence.

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